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A. If you have finally figured this out -- when the reactors began melting, you must presume that everyone who knows anything about Nuclear Power knew this immediately. (Unless you think that you are smarter than them;

Or unless I understand a little of the power of wishful thinking. Humans do not like to admit that they have been ruined, that they have fucked up or that they are not in control of something they feel they should be in control of. They really do not like it.

Never underestimate the extent to which people will lie to themselves to avoid facing uncomfortable truths.

Therefore, they (the plant operators and the government) knew the unprecedented magnititude and danger they were facing within several hours of the earthquake. Therefore, all news, accusations, finger pointing, disclosures, intentional contradictions of story, official lies, etc. have been managed from the start as political events of the highest import by the highest levels of power.

This assumes that TEPCO executives, the Japanese government and their respective bureaucracies have if not coterminous then at least substantially overlapping objectives in their propaganda.

It further assumes that this shared objective involved TEPCO falling on its proverbial sword. The TEPCO propaganda makes them look completely clueless and out of touch at several key junctures. Now, when an entity's own propaganda makes it look incompetent and confused, then the most parsimonious explanation is usually that said entity actually is incompetent and confused.

Repeat: All news is political. As in the Bin Laden assasination, and all disinformation campaigns, creating contradictions and ambiguities encourages people to accept the basic assumptions: In the former case, that Bin Ladin was actually alive;

Uh-huh. Y'know, I'd love to explore the alternate reality in which the bin Laden conspiracy theories make even the dimmest sort of sense, but my doctor has told me to cut down on my tinfoil exposure.

Tom Kean, of 9-11 comission infamy,

Woo-hoo. Two down, one to go. Now all we need is the "the Bushies planned for Iraq to go to shit from the start" to have the Trr Tinfoil Trifecta.

Similar to: Iraq, Libya cakewalk. They know its not true, in fact they NEED a quagmire to permanently position troops there,

Aaand, bingo.

(No, they really don't need a quagmire. Most of their bases are in perfectly non-quagmired countries. In fact, a pliable client state is infinitely preferable to a quagmire when it comes to keeping bases around.)

Well, it is like this: We will never have more energy than we have right now.

I would quarrel with that assumption. Simply counting kWh, it is perfectly possible to power all of contemporary human civilisation by carpeting less than ten per cent of the Sahara in off-the-shelf PV cells.

Now, it's a bit more complicated than that, because you need to get those kWh to the places where we want to use them, and at the time when we want to use them. But there's at least a full order of magnitude to play with, from the Sahara alone, so compensating for the decline and eventual loss of fossil fuels is not prima facie impossible, should we turn the full attention of modern industrial society to the task. Which we will, if we want to keep being a modern industrial society.

If we fail to shut these plants, the most habitable regions of North America, Europe, and Asia will become--this century--nuclear exclusion zones.

Perhaps.

But going by historical experience, a lot more reactors are safely decommissioned than blow up.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jun 11th, 2011 at 05:54:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Or unless I understand a little of the power of wishful thinking.
 
Well, I personally know quite a few people in denial about matters of daily life, so I can see where you are coming from with this.  Nonetheless, wishful thinking tends to apply more at the level of upper management.  The technicians on the spot usually have a pretty good idea of how things actually work.  Malooga claims this from his experience in the oil refining industry.  I claim it too, for other reasons.  I have never worked in the nuclear industry but I know the main modes of failure--it is just not credible that the folk whose job it is to know these things and are trained in them are unaware.  Just from knowing the operating conditions before the earthquake the technicians on site would have known how much time they had to restore cooling.  We didn't know that because we didn't know the conditions.  But they did.  

Malooga's main point here is that the meltdowns were already known, but the decision was made for reasons of public relations to pretend that they were not known, but that a trend toward meltdown was evolving over days and weeks, rather than already past.  

Well, this is one familiar pattern!  Look at last April's BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Or the entire history of peak oil.  This is simply how management manages.  

 
I'd love to explore the alternate reality  
 
Congratulations on buying the media narrative.  I hope it gives you good service.  To say more would be off-topic.  
 
more reactors are safely decommissioned than blow up.
 

That is because they had exterior power that made decommissioning possible.  and that is exactly what I am recommending--that we decommission these plants while we have the power to do so.  

If the Sahara Desert plan works out, I will quit worrying--for Europe--as you will have all the power you need for decommissioning.  I admit I think the scheme is vaporware, but to explain why would be a whole new thread.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 12:10:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nonetheless, wishful thinking tends to apply more at the level of upper management.  The technicians on the spot usually have a pretty good idea of how things actually work.

Absolutely. But upper management are the ones who veto the agit-prop. So the more likely explanation for the observed discrepancy between the agit-prop and the facts (and actions) on the ground is that upper management was in denial and the technicians were not. (And that, thank God, upper management did not impede the technicians too greatly.)

Malooga's main point here is that the meltdowns were already known, but the decision was made for reasons of public relations to pretend that they were not known

And my point is that there was no single "the decision" made. Information does not flow instantly and flawlessly through an organisation, particularly when upper management is clueless and out of touch. So it is entirely possible (plausible, even) that one hand did not know what the other was doing.

Congratulations on buying the media narrative. I hope it gives you good service. To say more would be off-topic.

I'd say "make a diary where it is on topic." But honestly, I fail to see how devoting another diary to silly conspiracy theories would improve the signal-to-noise ratio of this place...

more reactors are safely decommissioned than blow up.

That is because they had exterior power that made decommissioning possible.

We can lose a lot of power before we are unable to safely decommission the existing nuclear fleet.

Even if we pump every remaining oil reservoir at rates that damage ultimately recoverable reserves, and strip-mine every coal deposit and tar sand pit, there is an upper limit on how fast you can get fossil fuels out of the ground. So even pretending that sustainable energy sources cannot take up the slack from fossil fuels (something which is less than perfectly obvious), we will still have enough power to decommission these plants, if that is what we decide to use that power for.

Of course, it is always within our power to make the political decision not to safely decommission the plants. But that would be a political decision, not an unavoidable fact of life.

If the Sahara Desert plan works out, I will quit worrying--for Europe--as you will have all the power you need for decommissioning.  I admit I think the scheme is vaporware,

Of course it is. There are no silver bullets, and it is not intended as "a plan" in the sense of being a silver bullet. There is no silver bullet. And even if there were, monocropping your energy supply like that would be criminally insane. The actual solution, if it is implemented, would be a patchwork of more or less independent solutions - harvest North Sea wind, improve energy efficiency, harvest solar power, run-of-river hydro, dams, and so on and so forth.

But the Sahara example does illustrate that the energy is there, and we have the technology and resources to harvest it. Whether we will be politically able to do so or not is a different question, but one that is not well served by assuming a priori that we will not.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 06:51:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is my issue with nukes - the technology can be made manageably safe, and in a psychologically stable world spent fuel would be nasty but not impossible to contain.

But nukes aren't politically and managerially viable. Too many politicians and managers respond emotionally rather than rationally, they have almost non-existent modelling skills, and their primary aim is always increased personal economic and political power rather than social responsibility.

So nuke technology is a bad match for this psychological profile. There will always be management pressure to cut corners on costs and safety and to maximise profit.

You can pretty much guarantee that in these circumstances, stuff will go boom when stressed.

As for energy needs - I'm finding it difficult to believe that renewables can't completely replace dirty carbon sources within a decade or two. Between wind, tidal, hydro and both kinds of solar - and combined with smarter grids and better efficiency - the only reason for continuing to build nukes is political inertia.

I'd consider allowing some nuke development as a stop-gap providing the design is absolutely fail-safe and impressively over-specced for safety.

But any technology which isn't absolutely fail-safe with any obvious safety issues of any kind really needs to be scrapped almost immediately.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 03:51:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How are renewable energy sources not subject to the same political and managerial emotion? Isn't that exactly the source of typical opposition to wind and solar power?
by asdf on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 05:25:06 PM EST
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They are. But they don't make nearly as spectacular a kaboom when you fuck them up.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 05:30:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They're either inherently fail-safe, or fail-safe is easy to build in.

But this is the big value of renewables done right - compared to dirty carbon, they're massively low-maintenance. Once they're in place they mostly "just work" for the duration of their design life.

Dirty carbon fuels all need active high-maintenance permanent effort. You have to run them 24/7. They don't just sit there producing energy for you.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 06:16:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Although we're just as guilty of management failure, our meltdowns only affect one-horned goats.

Unlike the Gas People.


Three years before the deadly San Bruno disaster, PG&E received an ominous warning: Its natural gas system, an internal review found, posed a "catastrophic risk." But the utility's management and board of directors failed to take critical steps to reduce the danger.

That telling lapse was one of many disturbing signs that the company's culture had turned "dysfunctional," according to a five-member expert panel picked by the California Public Utilities Commission to look into the explosion. The panel's report, released Thursday, drew headlines for its suggestion that improperly monitored work on a nearby sewer pipe may have led the San Bruno pipe to rupture.

But what may be more important in the long run are the report's insights into how the company operates internally.
While PG&E's stated goal was to be "the leading utility in the United States," the panel faulted the company for being too bureaucratic, lacking management expertise, giving mere lip service to public safety and failing to take measures that might have averted the San Bruno tragedy.

OK, the gas explosion only killed 8 people, and it only calls into question the condition of the gas network, so no big deal.

Except these are the same people who decide our energy future.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Jun 12th, 2011 at 06:24:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To be fair, one of the nascent renewables, HDR geothermal, can cause spills and subsidence; and if big hydro is to be counted as renewable, it can cause floods and earthquakes and downstream droughts. Though none of these are really management-related.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jun 13th, 2011 at 04:21:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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